#54: Land reform, stewardship, community ownership and land justice

At the time of writing, the Coronavirus has forced us all to adjust to a rapidly-changing marketplace, and a lot of uncertainty in UK farming. While we can’t be out reporting from the fields at the moment, we begin this episode by sharing some messages from farmers and growers coming together at this time, and we have plenty of interviews stashed away in the hopper, so we will continue to bring you stories from the frontline of regenerative farming!

This month, we continue our focus on inspiring stories from the Oxford Real Farming Conference, focusing on land reform, stewardship, community ownership, and land justice. Our first conversation is with Molly Scott Cato, a former Green MEP, who shares her thoughts on land reform in the UK after attending a session with other political parties at ORFC. Molly shares her concerns with our current model of land ownership, where land access is not equal to all, with huge swathes of countryside instead inherited down family lines.

Next, we hear from Ninian Stuart, co-founder of the Centre for Stewardship, who shares his family’s learnings from exploring different kinds of ownership on their estate. We talk about the resulting land stewardship scheme on Ninian’s land in Scotland, the diversity that it brings to the land, and why he feels ‘owning’ land is a funny concept.

We then chat to Sebastian Parsons of the Stockwood Community Benefit Society. Sebastian is another landowner who’s doing things differently! We learn about his experience in moving his family farm to community ownership, and how these dynamic structures can support both the farmer and the investors.

Next, we hear Leah Penniman and Ọlá Ayòrindé in conversation about land injustices and repairing colonial trauma through relationship with the land. Leah is the co-founder of Soul Fire Farm in New York, and Ọlá is the co-founder of Land In Our Names (LION), an organisation addressing land injustices in the UK, and seeking to reimagine a system where people of colour can live off the land in ways which care for the soil, the surrounding biodiversity and themselves.

Finally, we share exciting news of a chance for you to get actively involved in a shared land ownership model. The Ecological Land Cooperative are currently offering the opportunity to join them as an investor member right now! If you’re interested, follow this link for more information. 

This episode was written and edited by Suzie McCarthy and Hanna Soderlund, and presented by Abby Rose, Katie Revell Jo Barratt. Featured interviews were recorded by Darla Eno and Cathy St German at ORFC 2020. Community support for Farmerama is provided by Hanna Soderlund, Fran Bailey, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

#53: Storytelling, Nutrient Density, Fashion Connections & Community Farms

Photo credit: Save Trecadwgan Farm Facebook page

This month, we bring you the first of 3 special episodes focusing for the most part on stories from the Oxford Real Farming Conference, or ORFC. This year, we were delighted to be the ORFC’s official media partner.

First, we hear from writer and storyteller Georgia Wingfield-Hayes about why storytelling and myth-making are crucial to the regenerative farming movement. At ORFC, Georgia shared a story called ‘The Herdsman’, a true story which shows what cheap food is doing to the land, the animals and the people involved in its production.

Next, we speak to Matt Adams, a deep ecologist, and who is working with public health and nutrition specialist Elizabeth Westaway, about to launch a their new initiative called Growing Real Food for Nutrition—Grffn for short—which is bringing to the UK the work of Dan Kittredge and the Bionutrient Food Association

Then we share the work of fashion designer Alice Robinson, who has created two innovative accessory collections, re-awakening the connections between fashion and farming. Each collection is made solely from one animal, and using all parts of the animal without a scrap wasted. We’re helping get Fibreshed UK started, so if you are interested in being involved then tune in to future Farmerama episodes and we’ll keep you in the loop.

Finally, we share an urgent call for councils across the UK to recognise the value of real farming through the story of the Save Trecadwgan Farm campaign in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Trecadwgan has been a council farm for nearly 100 years, but now the council has decided to sell it off. A group from the local community and beyond, including farmer Gerald Miles and Sam Roddick, are fighting to buy Trecadwgan and turn it into a community farm. 

Farmerama is made by Jo Barratt, Abby Rose, and Katie Revell. In this episode there were interviews by Darla Eno and editing by Louis Hudson. Community support is provided by Hanna Soderlund, Fran Bailey, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt. We also heard some music recorded at this year’s ORFC from a session led by Robin Grey at St Aldate’s Church.

#52: Oxford Real Farming Conference, social justice & land, new forms of land ownership

Leah Penniman at ORFC (IMG Credit: ORFC Official Photographer)

This episode we’re sharing stories from the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) – where we were proud to be the official media partners – reporting live during the event! We’ll be sharing more stories from the conference over the coming weeks.

We kick off with the powerful words of Malcom X, read by the ever-inspiring Leah Penniman, who featured in our Women of the Land series last year. We then hear from Josina Calliste, co-founder of Land in Our Names (LION), who shares about her visit to Leah’s Soul Fire Farm and their collaboration on a conversation around food justice, land justice and re-connecting with nature at the conference.

Next, we immerse ourselves in the natural world with Ian Solomon-Kawall, who runs May Project Gardens, and chat about the transformative properties of nature and how much it can help to improve mental and physical health, and address trauma. 

Finally, we speak with Miriam Rose from Hardwick Estate about reforming age-old aristocratic dynamics of land ownership, and creating a new and progressive structure for ownership of their estate.

Farmerama is made by Jo Barratt, Katie Revell, and Abby Rose. In this episode there were interviews from Darla Eno and Cathy St Germans and editing from Louis Hudson. Community support is by Hanna Soderlund, Fran Bailey, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins, Olivia Oldham and our theme music is by Owen Barratt. We’ve also heard some music recorded at this years ORFC, Amazing Grace at the closing plenary, and other songs from a session led by Robin Grey at St Aldates Church.

‘Cereal’ #6: Grain Futures

We are the bread system. If you eat bread – or any grains – you are part of it.

So how can we all get involved, and what can we do to usher in the new grains movement to build joy, nutrition and resilience in all of our communities?

In this final episode, we explore what a more efficient, nutritious, regenerative and joyful bread system might look like. We hear some of the ways people are coming together and building networks to strengthen the movement in the UK and further afield.

It’s clear that in this beautifully complex, entangled system, even just a conversation can spark much wider change. This is a story of hope and a blueprint that has the potential to cause reverberations far beyond bread. It turns out that bread is political – and you, too, can take a stand for the world you want to live in. 

This might be our final episode of Cereal, but it isn’t the end – it’s just the beginning! Join the new grains movement. Talk to your local bakers, seek out local millers, thank your farmers, be open-minded, be curious.

A huge thank you to everyone who’s contributed to Cereal. As well as the voices you hear in this episode, many more conversations have helped to shape the series. Thanks to Andrew Whitley (Scotland the Bread), Kim Bell (Small Food Bakery and UK Grain Lab), Mark Lea (Greenacres Farm), Fred Price (Gothelney Farmer), Steven Jacobs (Organic Farmers & Growers), Ben MacKinnon (E5 Bakehouse), Anne Parry (Felin Ganol), Rupert Dunn (Torth y Tir), Josiah Meldrum (Hodmedods), Tomaso Ferrando (University of Antwerp) and Fintan Keenan. Thanks also to the Lost Revellers and everyone who came to the Nottingham Cereal launch harvest party and lent their voices to make the Flour Ambassador’s Pledge.

This series was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Roddick Foundation. Please listen, share, review and subscribe, and support the farmers instigating change. All six episodes can be found on Soundcloud and all podcasting platforms. And if you’d like to support Farmerama, visit patreon.com/farmerama.

Cereal is produced and edited by Katie Revell, with support from Abby Rose and Jo Barratt. Suzie MacCarthy and Hanna Söderlund also worked on the series. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

‘Cereal’ #5: The best thing since sliced bread? Unsliced bread

The UK is the fifth largest economy and has some of the cheapest bread in the world – is that something to be proud of, or is it a convenient outcome of a system that prioritises shareholder profit, fobs off economically deprived people with poor quality food, and throws away a third of what it produces? 

It’s so ingrained in us that cheap food is better for everyone, but in this episode we ask you to stop and really think – are we supporting a system that is efficient for lining the pockets of a few, whilst impoverishing everyone else? 

What if the real cost is our collective health, and the health of the planet? 

Bread is not just money, bread is nourishment, deliciousness, companionship, connectedness, pride, politics.

In this episode we hear from bakers up and down the UK who are redefining the value of bread. Bakers who are making a stand for their communities and the planet. Bakers from some of the most economically deprived areas who are bringing meaning, intention and joy to their baking. Bakers who are being recognised for their craft and sharing the benefits with their local communities. 

This is about food networks, not food chains — this is about reaching true efficiency that takes into account the whole system (health, environment, waste, community, joy), not just the financial balance sheet.

The radical changes that bread has undergone are revealing of much wider truths about our relationships with food, to farmers, with the land, the environment, and with each other. If you eat food, you have a stake in this story.

A huge thank you to everyone who’s contributed to Cereal – as well as the voices you hear in this episode, many more conversations have helped to shape the series. Thanks to Chris MacCormack (Govanhill Bread Man), Theo Laffargue (Riverside Bakery), Catriona Milligan (High Rise Bakers), Kim Bell (Small Food Bakery and UK Grain Lab), Ben MacKinnon (E5 Bakehouse), and Rupert Dunn (Torth y Tir).

This series was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Roddick Foundation. Please listen, share, review & subscribe, and support the farmers instigating change. All six episodes can be found on Soundcloud and all podcasting platforms. And if you’d like to support Farmerama, visit patreon.com/farmerama.

Cereal is produced and edited by Katie Revell, with support from Abby Rose and Jo Barratt. Suzie MacCarthy and Hanna Söderlund also worked on the series. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt. 

‘Cereal’ #4: The Millers are Missing

In episode 4 of Cereal, we ask how the milling process has led us to producing flour with almost no nutritional value? And why would the majority of the wheat grown in the UK go to animal feed?

We meet millers around the UK who are doing things differently, providing flour with terroir, flour that is fresh and filled with nutrition, using locally grown heritage varieties that are benefiting people and planet.

The radical changes that bread has undergone are revealing of much wider truths about our relationships with food, to farmers, with the land, the environment, and with each other. If you eat food, you have a stake in this story.

A huge thank you to everyone who’s contributed to Cereal – as well as the voices you hear in this episode, many more conversations have helped to shape the series. Thanks to Connie Hunter, Andrew Whitley (Scotland the Bread), Anne Parry (Felin Ganol), Angus McDowall & Alison Campbell (Mungoswells), Fintan Keenan, Josiah Meldrum (Hodmedods), and Kim Bell (Small Food Bakery and UK Grain Lab).

This series was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Roddick Foundation. Please listen, share, review & subscribe, and support the farmers instigating change. Episodes are released each Sunday on Soundcloud and all podcasting platforms. And if you’d like to support Farmerama, visit patreon.com/farmerama.

Cereal is produced and edited by Katie Revell, with support from Abby Rose and Jo Barratt. Suzie MacCarthy and Hanna Söderlund also worked on the series. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt. 

‘Cereal’ # 3: Farms Produce Food

Intensive chemical (or conventional) farming systems can be incredibly efficient in perfect conditions, but in a global climate emergency this method of farming is out of date.

Fred Price in a field of alfalfa, returning nitrogen to the soil as part of his rotation
Fred Price, Gothelney Farmer, in a field of alfalfa, returning nitrogen to the soil as part of his rotation

In episode 3 of CEREAL, we hear how soil health, biodiversity and regenerative farming are enabling farmers to move to a new system of farming that is nutritious for humans and the land. 

What is the experience of farmers growing the wheat, that’s ground to flour, that makes our bread? We explore why farmers are moving away from intensive chemical systems to more ecological approaches, why farmers are reclaiming their autonomy, detaching themselves from exploitative commodity markets, re-building connections with seed breeders, millers, bakers, and consumers – and once again finding reasons to celebrate diversity and distinctiveness. 

The radical changes that bread has undergone are revealing of much wider truths about our relationships with food, to farmers, with the land, the environment, and with each other. If you eat food, you have a stake in this story.

A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to Cereal – as well as the voices you hear in this episode, many more conversations have helped to shape this series. Thanks to contributors Kim Bell (the founder of Small Food Bakery and UK Grain Lab), John Letts (Heritage Harvest), Andrew Whitley (Bread Matters, currently based at Bowhouse Fife, chairman of Scotland the Bread), Mark Lea (Greenacres Farm), Fred Price (Gothelney Farmer), Steven Jacobs (from Organic Farmers & Growers)

This series was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Roddick Foundation. Please listen, share, review & subscribe, and support the farmers instigating change. Episodes are released each Sunday on Soundcloud and all podcasting platforms. And if you’d like to support Farmerama, visit patreon.com/farmerama

Cereal is produced and edited by Katie Revell, with support from Abby Rose and Jo Barratt. Suzie MacCarthy and Hanna Söderlund also worked on the series. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

‘Cereal’ #2: Nature Hates Uniformity

Most bread we eat today is made using modern wheat varieties bred for uniformity and yield at the expense of our health and our soil. Just as our bread has changed, so have our seeds. 

In this week’s episode, Katie Revell takes us straight to the source and asks: in the face of a climate and health crisis, what seeds should we be sowing? Hear how people like Mark Lea of Greenacres Farm (pictured) are finding ways around oppressive laws and reviving heritage varieties in order to feed people with nutritious grains.

It might get a little technical in places, but stick with us — industrialised wheat covers an estimated 218 million hectares of the planet, more than any other food crop. If we are to feed to the planet in years to come, we need to work in sync with nature and embrace ecological farming systems that support DIVERSITY. 

A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to Cereal – as well as the voices you hear in this episode, many more conversations have helped to shape this series. Thanks to contributors Kim Bell (the founder of Small Food Bakery and UK Grain Lab), John Letts (Heritage Harvest), Andrew Whitley (Bread Matters, currently based at Bowhouse Fife, chairman of Scotland the Bread), Mark Lea (Greenacres Farm), Rupert Dunn (Torth y Tir), and Josiah Meldrom (Hodmedods). Thank you also to the Oxford Real Farming Conference for their archive recording of the late Professor Martin Wolfe.

This series was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Roddick Foundation. Please listen, share, review & subscribe, and support the farmers instigating change. Episodes are released each Sunday on Soundcloud and all podcasting platforms. And if you’d like to support Farmerama, visit patreon.com/farmerama

Cereal is produced and edited by Katie Revell, with support from Abby Rose and Jo Barratt. Suzie MacCarthy and Hanna Söderlund also worked on the series. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

#51: Compost, soil carbon vs soil health, a call to farm, CEREAL, and community beer

This month, we chat with compost pioneers Dr. David Johnson – a microbiology researcher and Associate at the Centre for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems at Chico State University, California – and his partner, Hui-Chun Johnson, about the breakthrough compost methodology they have devised, called BEAM.

Next, Abby shares some thoughts on soil carbon and soil health, encouraging us not to forget about all the many benefits of improving soil health aside from carbon sequestration. We hear an impassioned call to farming action from Jyoti Fernandes, co-founder of the Landworkers’ Alliance and member of La Via Campesina.

We are very excited to announce a six-part series called CEREAL on the UK Cereals industry, starting Sunday 24th of November. In the series, we ask how the industrial food system has come to dictate the life cycle of cereals, from seed to loaf, and introduce some of the people building alternative models for the future. This month, we share a conversation with John Letts, of Heritage Harvest and one of the original pioneers growing different types of grain in the UK.

Next, we chat to Ann Bodkin of Grow Beer, who, along with her community, grows her own hops and makes community beer through the Brixton Beer Company.

Keep an ear out for the next episode in our Women of the Land Series, produced in partnership with Chelsea Green Publishing, in which we’ll be featuring vermiculture queen Rhonda Sherman talking about her new book, ‘The Worm Farmer’s Handbook’.

Finally, a party announcement and a quick request. Join us to celebrate the launch of our CEREAL series. We’ll be raising a glass to the new grains movement and the farmers, millers, bakers and activists building a better future. Save the date: 21 November in London, and 29 November in Nottingham. Tickets will be released soon.

As we embark on our fifth year, we would love to hear your ideas on how we can make Farmerama even better. If you have a few minutes, please share what you’d like to hear in the future! 

Thanks for listening to Farmerama this month, and every month.  Community support for the show comes from Hanna Soderlund, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins, Olivia Oldham and Mary Hurd. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

#50: Regenerative agriculture and climate change, seaweed entrepreneurship and noticing nature

This month, we begin by chatting to regenerative agriculture hero Charles Massy, who farms around 2000 acres of Merino sheep in Southern Australia. Charles makes sure to prioritise healthy, biologically active soil on his farm, and has a hugely biodiverse system, without any chemical input. We interviewed him at Groundswell this year, and we loved hearing him speak about the link between regenerative farming, human health and climate change.

Next, we head over to Fife, to check out Bowhouse – a production and market space that aims to connect small scale growers and producers directly with shoppers and restaurants. We’ll be releasing a short about Bowhouse soon, but in this episode we chat to Jayson Byles, who runs East Neuk Seaweed (one of the regular stalls at the monthly Bowhouse markets). Jayson tells us all about the beauty of foraging, and we learn about the abundance of seaweed in Britain, and how it can be harvested to reconnect with wild, seasonal food!

Finally, we connect with one of our Women of the Land – Brigit Strawbridge Howard. Brigit’s book, ‘Dancing with Bees’, came out on September 5th, and is a real journey of awakening alongside the wonderful world of bees. This time, we chat to Brigit about her mothers’ connection with nature in her final days, and we’re reminded of the importance of taking the time to notice the beauty of the natural world around us. If you’d like to hear more from Brigit, you can listen to our full length episode with her here.

We’d love to hear what you think about the show and to learn more about who you are. So we’ve created a short survey to help us understand what you like, and what you’d like to see more or less of on the show. Follow this link to take the survey – it will only take a few minutes.

Farmerama is made by Jo Barratt, Katie Revell and Abby Rose. This month, with extra support from Louis Hudson. Community support for the show comes from Hanna Soderlund, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins, Olivia Oldham and Mary Hurd. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.